I didn’t believe it. The crew told me several times that they thought there was a fresh water leak. I didn’t believe it. I know this boat very well and most of the time when somebody says something is broken, it’s not. Its’ usually because there is something in the way, or a line is bound, or the particular piece of equipment needs just a little TLC. Some things just need to be talked to and given a very gentle nudge. I talk to my boat a lot. Almost every piece of equipment has a name, usually a female name; Jenny, Rita, Betty, Kate. Silly I know, but it’s true. When the main sail wouldn’t come out the answer was, “Don’t try so hard; she’s in distress.” Letting up some tension caused the mainsail to run out free and easy. “Don’t use a winch handle when you can easily pull by hand,” I often say to the crew. Most everything on the boat can be done by hand with a little help from the winch at the very end to snug things up, if at all. So when the crew told me they thought there was a fresh water leak, I listened to them, checked what they said and found no validation in or for support of their complaint. ‘”The water pump was running too much which means there’s a leak,” they said. Each of them. Whenever a crew member has a question or states a concern, I always investigate with them. We all learn and they are put at ease by fixing it or learning how things work. The overactive water pump was not apparent whenever I investigated with them. “The water system was fine, maybe some overuse and we should conserve more,“ I thought.
I am very careful with the fresh water systems and have taken extreme care to make certain that our water system is more than adequate for us. I cleaned the tanks, had the water maker serviced – 3 times—created step-by-step documentation on how to operate it. Had that documentation verified and updated by someone not familiar with the system and updated any missed steps if they couldn’t get water going. I installed a water purification filter and spout for drinking water (I asked Tim to do this for reasons I’ll explain below), converted the heads to sea water flush instead of fresh water to preserve fresh water for drinking and cooking. I tested and repaired the sea water galley foot pump so we could have sea water to wash dishes and fresh water to rinse. I verified that there is a Y valve to the foot pump so sea or fresh water could be chosen in case the fresh water pump failed. The only thing I didn’t replace was the water heater. It was acting up several months ago and I couldn’t figure out why. I drained it, serviced it, and made sure it was ok. It worked fine after that. Other than that was the expansion tank. An air pressurized vessel that provides pressure so that the pump doesn’t have to run as much. It was low on pressure so we pumped it up and all was good. So the water system was fine in my mind. The system was sound, redundancy in place with 2 independent tanks, 2 levels of water purification, water conservation steps implemented, water making capacity tested - I even keep a log detailing how much water is consumed per person per day whenever sailing off shore so I know what water capacity to plan on, and we tested the water maker under way at sea several times. So when the crew was concerned about a water leak and the fresh water pump didn’t act odd when they tried to show me, I put it in the back of my mind to monitor and be aware of instead of taking more aggressive action.
We made a lot of water. We made close to 90 US gallons of water a day, some days more. We needed to make water every day. The solar system barely kept up with the electrical demand and we ran the engine to charge the batteries because the water maker was taking so much electricity. We were consuming more water than was normal.
This morning started early for me. I went to sleep last night just about midnight and I woke up at about 0230 to check on things in the cockpit. I said hello to the crew on watch, had a couple laughs, and helped adjust the sails a bit. I went back to bed about 0300. My watch started at 0600 so I woke up at 0545 and was in the cockpit a little before 0600. The sun hadn’t come up yet. It was a clear night with some clouds over the horizon. Nathan was on helm and the wind was shifting a bit so we decided to Gybe, definitely a two or more person job with an asymmetrical spinnaker on a tack pole to windward and a preventer on the main. The pole was delivered a day or two before departure and was rough rigged while at the dock and the finishing rigging was done at sea by Seb and Larry. It was a new system and we were all learning it. Nathan, new the rigging, and I executed the Gybe well with increasing speed on the new tack. The wind was low however, and the seas calm with 3 ft. swells at about 18 seconds and very small wind waves driven by the 6 to 9 knot winds. We were making headway at about 3.7 to 4.1 knots SOG. Creeping along. The mainsail was out and she was restless in the light wind and being backed by the wind coming off the spinnaker. I like sailing headsail only so we put the main away. Instantly the spinnaker calmed down, stayed full of wind, moved directly in front of Blue Moon and pulled us about a knot faster. The rig was much more quiet, almost silent. The only sound was the ocean against the hull as we cut through at 5 knots. Nathan had finished his watch and went to his bunk for some well-deserved sleep having spent another night awake on watch and at the helm. Marye Ellen had started her watch and since the spinnaker was flying very calm and without any human help she went below to the navigation station for weather workup and navigation work. I was alone on the fore deck loving the sound of the waves dance against the hull as the spinnaker pulled us along through the ocean. I tested every line, every knot, adjusted the spinnaker several different ways with the 5 lines that control her. She was dialed in and needed no help to fly. I returned to the cockpit and took some pictures of the beautiful sunrise, the ocean and unfortunately some trash floating by. It was quiet and peaceful. At that moment I heard the bilge pump discharge, sending about a half of a gallon of water over the side. That’s a lot of water having had very little rain and no waves crashing over the deck in days. I went to the bilge and saw some water occasionally flowing in the sump/bilge via a feeder tube leading from somewhere aft. The water looked clear. I tasted it. Fresh. I filled a coffee cup about a third full and drank it. Fresh. I put more water in the cup so I could take it to Marye Ellen just in case I was too much of a bilge rat and couldn’t tell the difference between fresh and brackish water. I asked Marye Ellen to smell it. “Fresh,” she said. She must have thought I was working with the water maker and testing the water for salinity. I said, “Take a drink.” She asked where it was from and I said ‘the bilge’ she scowled. I said, “It seems fresh doesn’t it?” She agreed. I drank it. “There is good fresh water in the bilge, we have a leak,” I said.
We all worked to open every compartment, removed the mattress from every bunk, opened every access panel, crawled back into the stern where the steering quadrant rotates the rudder post. Everywhere there was a fresh water line we looked for leaks, touched it, traced it for water drops. We inspected and cleaned every part of the bilge to identify new water from residue left from the prior week. Nathan searched every bilge supply tube to make sure he knew where any drop of water might be coming from. We used the 0.5mm lighted inspection camera scope to inspect areas we couldn’t access. Larry ran the scope along the fresh water line in its entirety along both sides of Blue Moon. No leak. Water was still being fed to the bilge. Nathan and I removed the master bunk under which the water tanks are mounted, Two 335 liter tanks that work independently. We opened the access and inspection ports and inserted the scope in tank #1: dry. Tank #1 should be dry, it’s the working tank. We knew we were empty and I had started making water. When we run out of, or are ow on water , I turn off tank #1 and begin making water in it. I then turn on tank #2 for a couple hours so we have water while the water maker catches up and we have water in tank #1, then I switch off tank #2 and switch on tank #1. This way tank #2 is always at least 75% full as it is replenished by the overflow when tank #1 is full. This way we never use more than 60% of our fresh water and a nearly full tank #2 could last us several days if needed. Tank #1 was empty and water was entering from the water maker just as planned. We inserted the inspection scope into the inspection port of tank #2. Dry. Empty. My first thought was of Tim, I had let him down. Tim crossed the Pacific to Tahiti some years back and his water tanks became damaged leaving him with no fresh water for two weeks. He collected as much rain water as he could and kept himself and his crew as healthy as possible without fresh water. A challenging experience is a massive understatement. I didn’t want Tim, nor the rest of the crew, to have to worry about water. I was mortified to see that tank #2, our safety margin, was dry.
We do keep emergency water onboard. We have about 14 gallons of fresh water in about 12 separate containers that are protected and stowed in the bilge. This water is for emergency only and is not to be touched otherwise. We needed to get our original water plan on track. We needed to do this by finding and stopping the leak, then making more water to keep up with demand.
The condensation from the fridge and freezer as a source of the fresh water in the bilge were ruled out. Those drainage lines fed into the bilge from a different direction we found out, after working through a few T junctions and identifying the condensation source. Tim makes quick work of repairs by not only executing quickly to the corrective action, but identifying root cause of the problem quickly as well. We spent hours looking at every possible location. Then Tim said ‘it must be coming from over there’ and pointed to the port side just toward the back of the dining table. Then it hit me, I knew what the problem was. “The water heater is over there, behind that panel. Take the screws out and also the screws at the back of the dry locker.” Tim and Nathan had the panels off in moments and there it was, the offending leak. The high pressure overflow valve on the water heater was flowing even though there was no hot water in the tank. Something was wrong with the pressure valve and it was allowing water to flow out. We secured the water and Tim had re-routed the fresh water lines into a loop cutting out the water heater. The leak was stopped. Needless to say we were all very relieved to have found the source of the leak and stopped. Now the work to make water begins. We’ll need a lot of electricity and the solar panels are still catching up from being at less than 50% capacity for a few days as the result of wind damage caused by 40 knot winds on day one. We will need everything they have in order to make enough water. Until this trip, each solar panel array’s biggest power day was 1Kwh each. They have produced 2Kwh each on full solar days on this trip. We’ll need it all to keep the electronics going, make water, and keep the batteries topped up for enough electricity to get us through the night and into each solar day. To augment electrical power generation we will use the alternator on the diesel engine. We will not use the engine for propulsion. Even though winds are low and other boats are using diesel powered engines for propulsion we will not. However, I did expect that we may need to charge the batteries with the engine alternator at some point so this is what we set out to do with the plan of making water through most of the night. We started the engine and began charging the batteries. The engine usually gets the batteries to over 13 volts within an hour, then continues to fully charge the batteries further as long as it’s on. After an hour the batteries showed no increase voltage, no charge. We increased RPMs a bit and ran some other minor checks. Nothing helped. It was getting late, near midnight and me and the rest of the crew had been working hard all day. I had been up and working since 0545 with only a few hours of sleep prior. We needed rest. Shutting off the water maker and reducing power consumption in a few other areas would allow us to make it through the night. We’ll solve the power generation problem tomorrow. Now it’s time for a beer and some rest.
Winds 4-8 knots
Seas calm, swells 3ft at 20 seconds. No wind waves, wind ripples with no white caps.
Sea Water temperature 77°F
Marye Ellen taking a sight of Venus with the sextant. Celestial navigation is an important part of ocean sailing.
Our seventh day at sea was sunny and calm. We have had several hours of calm the past few days but always followed be good winds and hectic moments. Each night we have had periods of a couple hours with low to no winds that shift each minute as the wind changes and above is, squalls that drop rain and change the wind quite drastically. This causes a bit of a scramble to secure sails, pull in spinnakers, and watch the wind closely to get some forward motion to be able to steer. We have not used our engine for propulsion. Many the other boats have as they obviously decided to take penalty that accompanies using the engine for propulsion instead of sailing all or not at all. I set out to sail to Hawaii and that’s what I am going to do, no engine propulsion. Today was especially low wind conditions, the lowest we have seen. We came to an essential stop. During this time we organized our rigging, cleaned some clothes and other items, organized personal items that were spread around during then hectic prior week of rough seas. We also celebrated out halfway point.
The halfway point is an equidistant location between the start line in the San Francisco bay and the finish line near Kaneohe Bay. We reached that point last night and celebrated it today with a gourmet meal complete with champagne that Larry brought from France a few months ago. Larry and I dove into the ocean and swam for a while. It felt awesome! I did a quick underwater inspection of Blue Moon and all looked well. We all showered, caught up on some sleep and prepared for the end of the race, which should be exciting.
The fleet is converging on a common point from each boats different navigational view. Blue Moon fell down on the leader board due to the low winds the past couple of days. We are positioned nicely and ready to take a commanding position in the standings when the winds return which we expect to be tomorrow. We have come from dead last to leader of the pack twice already in this race and we expect to do it again. The next several days should be exciting as the fleet converges after having been apart for several days and hundreds of miles to fight for the finish line honors.
More to come! But for now I need to get to sleep. Its midnight and I have to be up for watch and helm at 03:00.
Blue Moon Fans:
Have you seen the new spinnaker yet? I am offering $200 via Venmo to anyone who can correctly guess theme of the Spinnaker!
Crew members not eligible.
Post your guesses via comments in the blog!
Sailing downwind at about 7 knots in 10-12 knots of breeze. The first reveal of the new spinnaker, designed by Nicole Valentine.
We have had several days in the beginning of the race with 20-40 knot winds and seas that tower over the boat and cover the deck with water and return again moments later. Waves knock the boat side to side up and down without prediction making the most basic movements of walking, getting a drink or sitting down in an expected lactation an arduous task. Holding yourself up is a constant battle. I have been asked what meals can be prepared and what do we eat in these conditions? I have asked Tim to put together in writing an example of the basic sustenance we must consume to keep our bodies energized and our minds focused. Many crews eat dried MREs or other such basic calorie Madden consumables to keep going. Marye Ellen and Tim have provisioned SV Blue Moon to take into account the resources we have onboard and the environment we must prepare meals in to maintain our strength. The exact meals that we have prepared and eaten onboard since our departure are listed below so
you can get an idea of the desolate environment we must cope with to execute such an endeavor.
Hardship rations on the passage to Kaneohe:
Morning tea (at the start line)
Pirates rum and ginger cake a la Sara
Virginia ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches with salad and grey poupon
Afternoon tea of rum cake with lavazza Oro latte or twinings Earl grey tea on the fan tail
Spring vegetable pasta bake a la Marye Ellen
Granola with keefir
Oranges apples bananas
Virginia ham and pepper jack cheese sandwiches with salad and grey poupon
Earl grey with Scottish butter shortbread
Lasagna (a la Sara) with Niman ranch beef and Marin cheese company ricotta
with green beans and garlic bread.
Granola with keefir
Salmon and cheese sandwiches with tomatoes and lettuce with capers and fresh squeezed lemon.
Baked turkey meatloaf (a la Marye Ellen)with sea infused green beans and garlic bread.
pancakes and maple syrup
Rum cake with Earl grey tea
Sunflower seeded sandwiches with Virginia ham and cheese filling
Fresh line caught SV Blue Moon Sebastiens BBQ Grilled Blue fin tuna fillets (1lb each) in lemon butter basted in white Bordeaux with sea water infused carrots green beans and rice with quinoa.
From scratch SV Blue Moon boat made Bread and butter pudding with warm maple syrup
Burritos with hot turkey meatloaf, pepper jack, salad, salsa, black beans and picked peppers
Prime beef bourginon with pasta spirals and from scratch SV Blue Moon boat made braided wholemeal bread (recipe texted from San Francisco and converted from lbs and oz to cups while underway) with Grey Poupon paired with Ojai sourced Viano Vineyards Zinfandel.
Saltines for those that may or may not have needed them, and extra portions for those that didn’t.
We buried a drone at sea. 2 bells. Drone FH 1 was buried at sea when the auto pilot mode became very confused. He was almost saved but missed the grasp of a hand by millimeters.
Three fish were snagged and one as caught and BBQ'd. Larry and Russ enjoyed sashimi right after the Blue Fin Tuna was hauled onboard and the whole crew enjoyed BBQ'd tuna. A very fresh and filling meal.
Full solar power and a sunny day gave us nearly 2kwh today and enough energy to run all boat systems, make water, and store energy in the batteries. The increased temperature of the water, 70 degrees f, increases salinity and decreases our water making efficiency from 8 gallons per hour heater day to 6 gph today. We are still making plenty of water though. We did run the engine to charge batteries that were depleted from the prior days without full solar.
Tim baking all day, bread, baked bread pudding, sandwiches, pancakes.... The rest of the crew were singing and playing ukeleles.
Got Jenny up!
Jenny has been pulled from the sail locker and is the driving force behind our performance in these conditions.
The race fleet is bifurcated with some boats choosing to go a southerly route and some choosing a northerly route. We chose North and made good time. We made a decision to move a little South and take advantage of a unique weather phenomenon I identified the other day. We made our move to the South during the night in stealth mode and enjoyed strong performance in favorable seas and good winds.
Day 3 gave us some time early in the day to catch up on a few things, then became more challenging as the evening wore on. We were able get the Bimini solar array back online due to Larry's repair all strategy - poor epoxy all over it. The strategy, deployed with as much care as can be for the situation at hand and out at sea, worked fairly well as we were able to remove the protective canvass and allow all four so late panels to contribute the our energy needs. As a result we were able to charge the batteries, and make about 50 gal of fresh water from sea water. The energy stored in the batteries also got us easily through the night's every requirements. I am back online.
We found the carrots.
Bigger swells and wind waves.
We made water with the added solar power from the bimini array.
We are beyond satellite tv reception for Directv. :)
We did snag a fish but it pull off The hook as Seb was attempting to real it in. The one that got away!
The day started with steep wind waves and rolling swells combined to make 10 - 14ft seas along with 20-30kt winds. #1 sail, Lucile, is still performing excellently in the wind conditions, 20-40 kts. Its an excellent sail from Quantum sails and is perfect for these conditions powering us to over 10kts of speed while not needing to be rested in winds over 40 kts. A great sail design.
We were able to dry out a bit and do some washing and drying of towels and gear until about mid afternoon when the Sky's became cloudy again, winds kicked up and the swells became much steeper with large developed swells at short intervals, with wind waves on top. No stars visible, wind howling, waves pushing the boat around and crashing over the deck.
It will be a long night.
No sightings of plastic or trash.